The Dubai-based, ride-hailing service Careem has added 42,000 Egyptian white taxi drivers to its platform through a partnership where the company will provide a distinct dispatch service through its application, according to a statement the company released to the media on Sunday.
In advance of the new service’s launch after the Eid holiday, Careem has stated that it will begin training white taxi drivers and will rely on service centers to ensure the new service conforms to the company’s efficiency and quality standards.
However, the taxi dispatching service will remain separate from the company’s fleet of independently contracted drivers that are made available to be hailed through the application’s interface. The addition “will not affect Careem’s current services and that choice is very important to our clients,” stated Wael Fakharany, the managing director of Careem Egypt and Careem’s global senior vice president of government relations.
Fakharany added in statements to Mada Masr that Careem welcomes “his White Taxi drivers as brothers driving cars that are smoke free and drug free.”
“As the fastest growing startup in the MENA region, Careem is committed to supporting the local ecosystem in Egypt,” added Fakharany, who recently joined the company after having previously worked at Google. “Integrating the white taxis to our system reflects clearly that our ecosystem makes the opportunities easier to avail in the Egyptian market as one of our main objectives.”
Despite Careem’s emphasis on greater consumer choice, market analysts have interpreted the move as a way to alleviate simmering tensions in Egypt’s transportation market.
Like other cities in the world, Cairo has been the site of several protests this year, with taxi drivers mobilizing against Careem and the similarly structured Uber to decry their practices as ushering in impromptu market liberalization that has created unfair competition and has been detrimental to their livelihoods. In response, Parliament and the Egyptian government have emphasized the importance of legalizing the ride-hailing companies’ activities.
According to Alaa Mohamed, a Federation of White Taxi Drivers representative, issues between customers and white taxi drivers will not be resolved until long-stagnant state-regulated metering rates are adjusted. Mohamed states that taxi fares – which start at LE3 and increase at a rate of 140 piasters per kilometer – have remained unchanged for eight years despite rising operation costs.
“Because of these prices, no taxi driver works with their meter. Others manipulate their meters altogether,” Mohamed says.
However, the new arrangement won’t change the white taxi fares, which would only be calculated through Careem’s system, to ensure transparancy, as reported by the the latter. In addition, Careem will be collecting a nominal LE5 dispatching fee.
Fakharany told Mada Masr that a ministerial committee is sorting out the needed regulation for Careem’s work in Egypt and that the latter will execute whatever is decided.
Correction: This story was edited to reflect that white taxis’ fares will be kept within the Careem system and only calculated through it.